Samuel J. Tanner 4 minute read


Central Pennsylvania was buried in snow last week. The locals called the storm a Nor'easter. What's a Nor'easter? Well, in Minnesota it's a light dusting of snow.

I kid.

I like to pretend that I'm hearty when it comes to cold weather. I was born and raised in the frozen north. Minnesota. The land of progressive education, passive-aggression, and hearty folk. I've spent weeks in sub-zero tempratures, fended off many a blizzard, and wrestled polar bears in the nude. Still, my time in Pennsylvania has changed me. Thirty degrees feels cold now and a light dusting of snow - a Nor'easter - seems worse than it is.

School was cancelled last week. On Thursday and Friday. Because of course it was. These Pennsylvanians cancel school at the rumor of a snowflake. Who am I to judge them? Good question. Judge not lest ye be judged. A foot of snow last week really ruined me.

I went outside at about six on a Thursday night as this Nor'easter hung over the city. It'd had been snowing all day. A snow day. The snow had turned to rain by early evening. I was going to shovel my driveway. You might ask if my driveway is long. Long enough. That's what she said. Oi. That's an inappropriate joke. Forgive me.

Anyway, I went to work clearing my driveway. Katie helped. Solomon and Samson came out and threw snow at each other. They screamed too. Darlings.

Each shovel-full of wet snow was heavier than the last. We battled the elements for nearly two hours and, at the end of it, the driveway was clear. And my back felt like there was a stone on it. And my wrists were sore from flinging the heavy snow from my shovel. Wet snow sticks to a shovel. I'll write it again. Oi.

I woke up the next morning, prepared to clean off whatever light dusting had happened over night. Instead, I found that the mixture of snow and rain on my driveway had accumulated once more, and there were six more inches to take care of. Two hours later, I was groaning like an old man as I walked my clean driveway.

I shoveled heavy, wet snow off my driveway twice in the course of 24 hours. Of course, I complained about this to anybody who would listen.

"The snow was so heavy," I'd whine, a hint of my Jewish ancestry in my voice.

Some people were polite. Others weren't. But a common theme emerged.

"You really should get a snow blower," person after person told me.

A snow blower? Somebody check my bank account. There's nothing in there! And I've got two boys. They eat enough goldfish crackers and strawberries to feed a small nation. And Samson refuses to give up his diapers. I've been buying diapers for nearly five years now. Diapers and student loans! Where's a man supposed to get money for a snow blower?

"I'm hearty," I told person after person. "I don't need a snow blower."

Person after person rolled their eyes at me. Hearty? My actions give me away.

Our poverty aside, Solomon and Samson enjoyed watching the snow pile up in our backyard. We bundled them up and took them outside. I gave them rides in their sleds. Later, we went to the park near us. There's a great sledding hill. Solomon sat on my lap as we tumbled off our sled time and time again. Samson was terrified and refused to go down.

They made snowmen, snow angels, and tramped up and down the backyard. They love the snow. I love watching them love the snow. Hearty, Minnesota folk.

And after the snow day it was Thanksgiving break. Well, after I took a quick trip to New York. I tagged along with some Penn State colleagues on Friday night to speak in a panel at Bank Street. I'd had a paper published in a special issues edited by said colleagues. Bill Ayers was supposed to join us. Google him if you've never heard of him. He's somewhat of an educational celebrity. But his flight from Chicago to New York was cancelled because of the snow. I guess Midwesterners aren't all that hearty after all. Still, I spent a night in Manhattan with some cool people. And drove back to Pennsylvania. And then it was Thanksgiving break.

It's been a long fall. I'll take a break wherever I can get it. Indigenous genocide aside. A week of rest, football, and food. Fatten myself up for the coming winter. If you can call what happens in Pennsylvania winter.